Michael Mendis is an unpublished writer currently studying law at the University of Colombo. We interviewed him about his writing and whether place has an impact on his writing voice.
Is place, the landscape and language of where you’re from, something that has a bearing on your writing voice?
Yes. To a large extent, this is unavoidable – because how I perceive the world and its people is significantly influenced by my own environment and the realities that are most familiar to me. On the other hand, I also sometimes make a conscious effort to infuse a sense of ‘Sri Lankanness’, which is emphatically a subjective thing, into my writing. I don’t do this for ‘flavour’, though. I do it because I think it adds to the believability of what I am trying to say.
Do you know why you do it?
Mostly, writing is part of my process of understanding the world. I am quite capable of logically rationalising most problems; but the logical formulae that I come up with are usually incomplete without the ingredient of humanity that comes from writing about the problem. In fact, sometimes, the logical answer and the ‘human’ answer are diametrically contradictory. So, I write because I think it helps me keep things real.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been writing short stories for a while. (I wrote ‘Incubus’ in 2011.) I am currently working on compiling a collection of these stories. But this is guaranteed to take more time than one would assume, considering the demands of my academic life.
If you were in a band, what would it be called?
I can’t see myself in a band, being unfortunately tone-and-tune deaf. But if it really comes to it, I’d probably convince my band-mates to use a band-name generating website.